Message from the President 1-25-2017

Jim Rich
President, The Landings Association

Several years ago, The Landings Association identified the need to explore municipal incorporation of Skidaway Island to improve services and to prevent forcible annexation by other municipalities. The 2015 TLA Strategic Plan directed the Association’s Board and staff to embark on a course of due diligence to evaluate the concept in detail. The first steps included the 2015 Landings Economic Impact Study conducted by economist Dr. Michael Toma of Armstrong State University, presented during the 2016 Annual Meeting of The Landings Association.

Thereafter, the Andrew Young School of Policy Studies at Georgia State University completed a Skidaway Island Incorporation Feasibility Study, a step required by the Georgia Legislature for moving forward with this process. This recent study concluded that, based on existing tax revenues, a new City of Skidaway Island would be financially feasible and would have more than enough funding to be sustainable.

So where do we go from here?

  • The Landings Association’s Board will have a two-day planning work session in early February and will devote significant time to evaluating the findings of the feasibility study and exploring whether incorporation of our island as a city is a preferable alternative, in terms of taxes and services, to remaining in unincorporated Chatham County or potentially being forcibly annexed into a consolidated City of Savannah/Chatham County governmental structure (http://savannahnow.com/news/2016-12-12/merger-study-savannah-chatham-eyed-2017).
  • Former TLA Board President Rex Templeton, Jr., who now serves as an Ex-Officio Board member, has agreed to coordinate these efforts for the Board. The Association also has engaged Hughes Public Affairs to guide us through this process.
  • Georgia law requires that all new municipalities must be enacted by passage of enabling legislation by the Georgia General Assembly. State House rules require that all incorporation bills be introduced during the first year of Georgia’s biennial legislative session (which is this year), carried over the summer for study, then voted on in the second year of the session (which would be 2018).
  • After passage by the legislature, all of the registered voters in the proposed incorporated area, in this case all of Skidaway Island, would vote on the matter in a public referendum, which must pass by a majority vote.
  • In order to begin the public dialogue regarding potential incorporation, TLA will work with our elected officials in the Georgia General Assembly to file legislation in early March. TLA Board representatives have met with state Representative Jesse Petrea and state Senator Ben Watson to discuss the matter. We have also met with several Chatham County elected officials and staff. Introduction of legislation does not ensure incorporation. Rather, it simply begins the lengthy process that would enable a public discussion and vote on the matter.
  • Following the early February Board work session on this issue, The Landings Association will provide regular updates to ensure residents remain informed throughout this process. There will be lots of opportunities for public discussion and feedback by all residents of Skidaway Island, including forums, surveys, and a formal referendum.
  • Please also see General Manager/COO Shari Haldeman’s column for more on this important topic.

Please join us at The Landings Association’s Annual Meeting on Monday, February 27 at 7 p.m. in the Plantation Club Ballroom. Incorporation will be one of several interesting topics discussed. I look forward to seeing you there.

Jim Rich
President, The Landings Association